The Factory Skatepark:
A Brief History

Dundee is a city which, like many in Scotland, has a rich history and heritage. It was once a thriving centre for trade with ships carrying off produce to the far corners of the world. As well as this aspect of heritage there is also a strong heritage of awesome skateboarding facilities stretching back over 2 decades. Many of you will have skated The Factory Skatepark, however, you may not know about the history of ‘The Factory’, why it’s called that. So this is an opportunity for a little history lesson to shed a little light on the matter (especially if you’re part of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater generation!).

Before the Factory ever was…

Dundee’s skating scene goes back to a small halfpipe in Broughty Ferry built around 1984/85 by BMXers Nick Johnston, Scott Carrol and others. A mini ramp was built as Nick and others started skateboarding.

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Erskine Street

Around 1987/88 another group of skaters started skating in an old factory warehouse on Erskine Street in Dundee, a small mini ramp was built and then both groups of skaters got together and built the first 16ft mini ramp, this was added to with another 12ft wide Extension and then a spine ramp and rollover added after that. And so the first ‘Factory’ came into being.

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Over the course of three or four years this Factory was the host for two amazing competitions which brought skaters from as far afield as London to come to them. Skaters like Lee Ralph, Bod Boyle, The Deathbox (now Flip skateboards) team like Paul ‘Rocker’ Robson, Wurzel and a very young Andy Scott were frequent visitors. Good going for a skatepark built in an old disused building and no official permission to be there!

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This facility continued for about three years or so until it was announced that the building was to be demolished. Given the incredible timescale of just a few days to try and relocate the ramps before being locked out of the building it was looking bleak, then the final nail in this first Factory’s coffin in the form of an arsonist with a huge quantity of petrol. So the first Factory was reduced pretty much to ashes and bulldozed along with the building itself not long after.
So began a period without any kind of ramps to skate in the area, skaters got their fix travelling to the Cosmos Centre in St Andrews to skate the indoor mini every Tuesday and Friday night.

Nethergate

After a gap of more than a year people began to skate in an old three storey building in Dundee’s Perth Road / Nethergate area. The top floor was messy, having been empty for years it was full of crumbling chipboard shelves mixed with a thick layer of pigeon poop. Undeterred by this a group of skaters, headed up by Colin Paton, tore into it, cleared it up and swept the entire area rendering it skateable. This building was amazing, three floors with probably over 50,000 square feet of skateable surface.

The top floor was eventually filled with a couple of hips, funbox / rollover, gigantic wall ride and various grindrails and jump ramps. The middle floor had a low ceiling but still had room for small grind rails and jump boxes. The bottom floor was quite dark with few windows but towards one end there was a huge set of doors, in this location was built a 16ft wide 6ft high mini which had 8ft of it’s width as a spine that went through a gap in the wall through to the darker area of the floor

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So the Factory was reborn due to the hard work of a few people, what topped it off was that the owner of the building, a local judge, came down one day as he had heard people had been in skating the building and wanted to take a look and tell people not to skate there anymore. But once he saw how the building had been cleaned up and was far from being wrecked by the skaters he was happy to let us skate there.

This Factory lasted for three years or so until the building was sold to be developed into what is now Dundee Contemporary Arts. Despite all efforts no home could be found for the ramps, and these were sadly chopped up and destroyed. Once again the ramps were all lost, it was kind of hard to take a second time around knowing all the hard work and effort that many people had put into building it all.
And so began another period with no Factory to skate…

Blinshall Street

Around 1996/97 a local church in Dundee called The Gate became increasingly interested in trying to help setup a facility for skateboarding in the city, it was seen as a unique opportunity to develop sport and community needs together under one roof. After looking at several possible buildings one was found in Blinshall Street in Dundee and was subsequently leased. With a £43,000 investment from The Gate the park was built, in May 1998 the park was officially opened.

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It was obvious from the start that this 5,500 square foot facility wasn’t nearly big enough, so it wasn’t long before the possibility of getting funding to move to a much bigger venue was explored. It was originally envisaged that the park would move to a new building within 18 months, however, it has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance but finally a new bigger Factory Skatepark has become a reality.

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And now…

The new Factory skatepark is housed in a brand new purpose-built building housing approximately 16,500 square feet of skating area. The building is located at 15 Balunie Drive in the Douglas area of Dundee across the road from ODEON Cinema.

Skatepark

The facility houses not only the skatepark but also has a skate shop, a restaurant,

IT Suite/Internet café which will be used as a gaming suite and IT training courses.
There is also one Video editing setup too along with a camera to encourage the creation of skate videos. There are various offices used by an MSP, NHS and some small community/youthwork organisations, and there is also showers! So you can go home smelling nice and fresh.

It’s exciting to finally see the park open, it may have appeared as if nothing was ever going to happen but it’s taken a lot of hard work and perseverance, applying for grants, fundraising, meetings with the council, community groups, landowners etc.
It’s also taken a lot of money, applications for planning permission (on two other previous sites that fell through in the end), architects fees and so on. But with the help from various trust and funders it’s become a reality.

As of 8th April 2004 The Gate who originally setup the skatepark passed on ownership to a new charity which was set up to oversee the project namely “The Factory Skatepark” which is a company limited by guarantee.
Everyone at The Factory is also grateful to all the people who skated and supported the park and made it a success, it’s exciting to now be in this new facility and seeing lot’s of people enjoying the park!

2003 – 2011: A Visual Timeline

We’ve put together a selection of photos representing each year from 2003 in the old park at Binshall Street to 2011 at our custom built park in Balunie Drive.  Click here to see the timelineshapeimage_1

Skateboarding Comes of Age

The sport of skateboarding has a new adopted parent in the form of Skateboard Scotland – which launched in March 2004. Set up to promote and support the sport in Scotland, the not-for-profit organisation has been working with existing youth groups, councils and the skateboarding community to increase the provision of facilities for the sport and nurture the future of skateboarding in Scotland.

In the short period since its launch Skateboard Scotland has helped more than double the amount of competitions and skateboarding events in Scotland and created an online home for the skateboarders at www.skateboardscotland.com

This has encouraged professional skateboarders and their sponsors to visit Scotland which is helping grow the sport even more.
Thanks to the growing popularity of the sport and Skateboard Scotland’s advice and encouragement Scotland has seen an unrivalled growth in facilities and consequently numbers of participants. As more councils see skateboarding as a sport rather than a fad the idea of being able to skateboard during PE or work towards the next Olympics are becoming an reality.

For further information please visit: www.skateboardscotland.com

Erskine Street Footage

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